The French Alps are primarily served by four airports with low-cost flights (at least in winter), and seasonal bus services to various ski resorts.
Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc Airport 10km north of Chambéry.
Geneva (Cointrin) Airport In neighbouring Switzerland; has lots of cheap flights across Europe.
Grenoble Isère Airport 45km northwest of Grenoble.
Lyon-St-Exupéry Airport 28km east of Lyon.
Geneva Airport is a convenient way to access the Jura Mountains; the region's much-smaller Dole-Jura Airport only serves a couple of destinations.
During the ski season, buses link airports and railheads with numerous ski resorts. Some services require that you make reservations 24 to 72 hours ahead.
Car & Motorcycle
The roads up to many popular ski stations are narrow, steep and serpentine, so in summer (July and August) or ski season (especially during French school holidays) traffic can be hellish – especially at weekends.
After a snowfall, local authorities may require that all cars have either:
- Snow chains (chaînes à neige), available from car rental companies for a small charge; you can put them on at an aire de chaînage.
- Winter tyres (pneus neige), available on rental cars for an extra fee. (Contact the branch directly to make sure they have winter tyre vehicles available; we've heard reports of online bookings through large operators not being honoured.)
You certainly don't want to find yourself blocked by the police from driving to your prepaid chalet so arrive in the Alps equipped – in the mountains (reasonably priced) chains can be hard or impossible to find, especially in the evening and on weekends.
The Fréjus and Mont Blanc road tunnels connect the French Alps with Italy, as do several routes over the mountains. Passes such as Col de l'Iseran and and Col du Petit-St-Bernard are blocked by snow for all but the summer months. Road signs indicate when they're open, as do official online maps:
Haute Savoie (www.inforoute74.fr)
These sites also have details on road delays or blockages that have nothing to do with the weather. You can also ask local tourist offices for updates on road and weather conditions.
On weekends from mid-December to early April, Eurostar (www.eurostar.com) ski trains (from €87, seven to nine hours) are a quick and environmentally friendly way to travel between London and Moûtiers, gateway to Les Trois Vallées (Méribel, Courchevel and Val Thorens), and Bourg St-Maurice, linked by bus with Val d'Isère. They're popular, so booking very early is essential to get low fares.
Within France, train services to the French Alps are generally excellent. In addition to Moûtiers and Bourg St-Maurice, important railheads include Sallanches, linked to Megève by bus, and Modane, gateway to Parc National de la Vanoise. To get to Chamonix you have to change to the narrow-gauge Mont Blanc Express at St-Gervais-Le-Fayet.
Besançon is the main railhead for the Jura Mountains, reachable on direct trains from Paris-Gare de Lyon and Dijon.